An Oasis of Connection

Near the end of 2016, God very suddenly and unexpectedly moved my dear fellow worker and housemate on to a new assignment. To this girl who thrives on communication and processes life best by talking about it, living alone overseas came as a very unwelcome gift. In fact, I didn’t think I could handle it. But the Lord gave me a promise in the words of a song which I sang dozens of times a day over the time that my housemate was leaving: “God will make a way where there seems to be no way.”

He has kept His promise. Not as I thought He would, by miraculously providing someone ready to take her place on short notice, or some such thing; but day-by-day, moment-by-moment, giving the grace that makes it possible to go on.

One of the ways He has done that was through a Velvet Ashes Connection Group in the spring. It was my first time to join a Connection Group, and I wondered what it would be like. I had heard many good things about Connection Groups, and I was excited to be part of one. But at the same time, I had doubts about whether my experience would be as good as that of others. Especially since, because of an unreliable, low-quality internet, the emailing group was my only option. Would we really connect well and understand and encourage each other through a few weeks of emailing?

I’m so glad I didn’t give in to my doubts, because, as I discovered, the answer to that question was a resounding Yes.

Among the greatest needs I was feeling when my Connection Group started was the need to be connected. Thanks to being overseas, living alone, doing a lot of my communication in my second language, and nearly all the people I rubbed shoulders with having a culture, religion, and worldview vastly different from my own, I felt like I was travelling through a desert, relationship-wise, and I longed for fellowship.

I found myself in a group with five other women. Every one of us lived in a different country, on four different continents, and we didn’t even all hail from the same passport country. I was the only single woman in the group. Our lives, past and present, each looked very different.

But we had one thing in common: we all loved the Lord. And as we shared our hearts and lives, we found a lot of other common ground—shared likes, similar experiences, etc. Amid the different personalities, backgrounds, and perspectives that added richness and dimension to our group, there were lots of “Me, too!” moments. It didn’t matter nearly as much that we were different as it did that we were actually so much the same.

I was blessed to be part of a group of women who were willing to be vulnerable, share hearts, “listen,” and care for each other. Whether it was telling a funny little story or a praise from the day, swapping interesting facts about our host countries and cultures, sharing ugly heart struggles and beautiful lessons the Lord had taught us, discussing the weekly theme, or praying for each other, my Connection Group lived up to its name—we connected.

I finished our weeks of emailing refreshed by a good strong dose of connection and fellowship. It was like I had camped out for a little while in an oasis in the midst of the desert. I was awed by the experience of how God’s daughters all over the world can so easily connect and go in very little time from strangers to friends. The connection didn’t end when the Connection Group did, either; I’ve continued to stay in touch with a couple of the women from the group.

If there’s anyone out there who is like I was, aching for fellowship, thinking about Connection Groups, but somewhat skeptical, I encourage you to consider it prayerfully. It just might revitalize you way more than you expect. It just might be God’s gift to you at this time to strengthen you to persevere in His calling for you. In this overseas life that often includes so much of loneliness and disconnectedness, here’s a golden opportunity for fellowship and connection!

Have you been strengthened by a Velvet Ashes Connection Group? What blessed you about it? Any thoughts about how we can be an encouragement to one another in the upcoming Connection Groups?

Connection Groups registration is  open! You can see groups, facilitators, and times here.

8 Comments

  1. Amy Young September 3, 2017

    Michelle, I never weary of hearing how the Lord meets us where we are AND brings people together. Thank you for sharing with us!!

    1. Michelle S September 4, 2017

      I love that, too! He’s so good to us!

  2. Annalisa September 3, 2017

    <3

    And the fruit sharing! (We e-mailed various fruits that we could find in our areas. Only the first week was food, but that kind of stuck with us the entire time.)

    1. Michelle S September 4, 2017

      Yes, our ongoing exotic fruit discussion was lots of fun. 🙂 <3

  3. Sarah Hilkemann September 3, 2017

    Wow, thank you for sharing this, Michelle! I have been working/living with another single teammate for the last 4 years, and the thought of her leaving is a big fear of mine (the rest of our team lives 6 hours away). Thank you for sharing the ways that God met you and ministered to your heart through that tough transition of your teammate leaving. I love that He used Connection Groups as a way for that encouragement to come!!

  4. Michelle S September 4, 2017

    It was actually a big fear of mine, too. The friend who was originally planning to come here long-term with me started a serious relationship leading to marriage, just a month before we came, so she ended up only being here for a few months. That time God did provide someone to take her place before she left, but after the first experience I never could quite believe that my new teammate would actually be here for her two-year commitment (though not because of any lack of commitment on her part). And sure enough, after 10 months God relocated her, still in the same country, but a day’s (or two days’) journey away on the mainland. When I first found out what was happening, I was like, “This can’t be happening to me again!” But the Lord gently reminded me that this was HIS plan, not some unhappy chance of fate. And though it certainly hasn’t been easy, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything as He has met me and taught me and changed me in wonderful ways through it all. I know He’ll do the same for you if your fears are ever realized!

  5. Dorette September 5, 2017

    I can relate with this post in so many ways 😉 My only Christian friend I have in the small town where we live is on home assignment at the moment.. I have made many friends through Velvet Ashes and this community is really a lifeline for me! I love being able to connect with other women who are also not surrounded by what they used to or know, but in the end it is truly the fact that “we all love the Lord” that makes these connections extra special!

    1. Michelle S September 5, 2017

      Yes, a lifeline…that’s a good way to describe it. This Velvet Ashes community has definitely been that for me too! Praying special grace for you this extra lonely season while your one friend is away.

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